July 22, 2012

Lighter chocolate popsicles

Back in high school, I spent plenty of my lunch money/allowance at the cafeteria ice cream counter.  Once I finished my lunch, I made a beeline for the lady behind the little "window".  Some of my favorites to buy were chocolate eclair bars and, oddly enough, a strawberry pop that had bits of strawberry seeds in it that I found extremely refreshing (odd because I'm not a big fan of strawberries but then again, we're talking sweetened juice so how bad could that be for a kid).  I remember I'd often buy two of those strawberry pops at a time; I was a big spender!  But besides that, another favorite of mine was the fudge bar - now, that should come as no surprise given my love of chocolate.
So when it came to popsicle making, after first thinking lemon, my mind veered right over to chocolate and fudge pops.  I think generally, fudge bars or fudge pops/fudgsicles are made with milk to give it that velvety, fudgy mouth feel.  That's nice but I actually like the icy texture of popsicles.  Plus, I was looking for something lighter for these very hot summer days.  So I looked to the chocolate granita recipe in The Perfect Scoop and filled the mixture into my popsicle molds.  What you end up with is a lighter chocolate popsicle.  It looks dark and decadent but is actually quite light and refreshing, with just enough chocolate taste and flavor to satisfy us chocoholics. 
This chocolate popsicle is made with water instead of milk.  Many fudge bar recipes also use a little bit of butter, which doesn't appeal to me very much here.  Unsweetened cocoa powder gives these pops a very dark look and we do use some dark chocolate but not overly much.  Two ounces of chocolate divided among five of these pretty generous popsicles is less than half an ounce per serving so it's fairly minimal but does the job nicely.  So no milk or butter - just water, cocoa powder, sugar, dark chocolate and a hint of vanilla.  It works very nicely.  You get that icy popsicle bite and plenty of dark chocolate flavor, without feeling weighed down or stuffed afterwards.
These chocolate popsicles turned out better than I thought they would be.  Unlike other desserts, I usually think fruity flavors when it comes to popsicles and other icy treats.  I figured we'd probably like the lemon popsicles I made recently more than these.  The little guy came home from camp one afternoon and I gave him a chocolate one to try.  At first, he told me he liked them but the lemon ones were better.  But as he took a few more bites, he said "it got yummier" and in the end, he proclaimed it a tie between the two.  Like him, I took one bite and another, then another, and it got better with each frosty bite.  I have to agree with my little taste-tester, it's a tie.

To make the chocolate popsicles, place 2 cups of water, 1/2 cup of sugar, 1/3 cup of unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder, and a small pinch of salt into a saucepan.  Whisk everything together.  Over medium-high heat, bring it to a roaring boil, stirring occasionally with a rubber spatula.  Continue cooking and stirring it for another 15 seconds or so as it boils before removing it from the heat.
Off the heat, add 2 ounces of chopped bittersweet or semisweet chocolate.  Stir together until completely melted.  I find it can be hard to get chocolate to thoroughly melt like this when it's not being combined with milk or cream.  Keep stirring and get it as incorporated as you can but I don't think it has to be perfect.  If necessary, you could put the mixture over a very low flame to stir together but let the mixture cool a bit before adding the vanilla extract because 1/2 teaspoon gets stirred in at the end.
I transfer the mixture to an easy-to-pour bowl and let it cool a bit more before filling my popsicle molds.  Leave about half an inch clearance on the top of the molds to allow for expansion.  Then just chill the popsicles in the freezer until set.
Since I only have one set of popsicle molds right now, I experimented with using wooden popsicle sticks.  If you do that, insert the popsicle sticks into the mixture about halfway through freezing (about 2-3 hours), or when it's set enough that the stick doesn't bob around.  Then, you're all set.

To unmold, dip the popsicles in some warm water for roughly 10-20 seconds to remove.  It's a good idea to put the unmolded popsicles back in the freezer so they set up again.  That way, they don't get all melty on you immediately.  You can store them in individual sandwich bags or wrap them each in plastic wrap and place in a large freezer bag.  With the wooden popsicle sticks, I can remove the frozen popsicles and make additional batches.  I'm stocking up my freezer!


Lighter Chocolate Popsicles
Adapted from the Chocolate Granita recipe in The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz

- Makes a bit over 2 cups, or 5 popsicles in my case -

2 cups water
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder

Small pinch of salt
2 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Place water, sugar, cocoa powder, and salt into a saucepan and whisk the ingredients together.  Bring to a full boil, stirring occasionally with a rubber spatula.  Continue boiling the mixture while stirring for another 15 seconds or so.  Remove from the heat and stir in the chocolate until it's fully melted.  Add vanilla.

Transfer the mixture into a large measuring cup or other bowl with a spout (for ease of pouring).  Let mixture cool to room temperature and pour into popsicle molds, leaving about 1/2 inch clearance at the top to allow for expansion.  Freeze until set.

To unmold, place popsicles in warm water for 10-20 seconds before removing from the mold.  It's best to place unmolded popsicles back in the freezer to firm back up (so it doesn't melt as quickly).  Store unmolded popsicles in individual freezer bags or wrapped individually in plastic wrap and placed together in a large freezer bag.

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